- Quirky concept car looks
- Packed with innovative technology
- Spacious front interior
- Limited range
- Small boot
- Pricey for the range
Range (WLTP): 131-137 miles Top Speed: 90 mph 0 to 60: 8.3-9 sec Cost/Mile (@14p/kWh): 3.6p
The Honda e is another car that divides tastes, like the Kia Soul EV. Except that where the Soul’s quirkiness erred on the side of “no thanks” for the majority (although some absolutely love it), the Honda e seems to turn heads in a positive way most of the time. Honda has definitely shown audacity in the design, both inside and out. The exterior appearance combines innovation with retro, where the interior boasts a stunning dashboard incorporating a full-width LCD panel. But we also have some reservations about decisions made in the specification elsewhere – with one particularly major drawback. This is a car you might just love and be annoyed with, both at the same time.
Price and Options
There are two versions of the Honda e – Standard, which starts at £26,660, and Advance for £29,160. The former has a 136PS motor and the latter 154PS. Both have the keynote full-width LCD dashboard, glass Sky Roof, rear privacy glass, front heated seats, LED daytime running lights, Smarty keyless entry with pop-out door handles, and side cameras instead of wing mirrors. The Advance, however, also has a camera and screen for the rear-view mirror, heated steering wheel, a 230V outlet under the dashboard, and Honda Parking Pilot.
Whichever version you choose, you can add an illumination pack for some more bling that costs £600, and some extra mouldings in black or black and blue for £850. The basic colour is yellow, but for £550 you can switch to black, grey, blue or white. The Advanced trim comes with 17in alloys as standard, although you can also choose the 16in ones, which are the only option with Standard. Leather seats in black or dark brown cost £1,395, otherwise these are grey cloth. You can also add Honda e-branded aluminium trim to the doorsteps for £185, and floor mats for £105. Our press car was the Advance trim with grey paint but didn’t appear to have any of the other optional extras.
However, there’s one thing that both versions of the Honda e have, to their detriment – a mere 35.5kWh battery pack. This could be the Achilles heel of this car, and the one thing that holds back its popularity. But more on that later in the review.
As we said in the introduction, not everyone likes the way the Honda e looks, and we like to joke that the round headlights and rear lights look so similar you’re not quite sure which direction it’s facing. But after living with the Honda e for a bit, we have to admit we love this car’s appearance. Photos don’t really do it justice, particularly with the 17in wheels, which fill the arches nicely. Of the colours, we also like the grey best of all – which is lucky considering that was the colour we were given. Alongside the black trim elements and metallic spokes on the alloys, this car is visually a design triumph. It looks a bit like an original VW Golf, but also clearly modern. When we had it parked outside the house, even the postman stopped to give it a long checkout. The lack of wing mirrors adds to the sleek look.
Like a lot of current EVs, the Honda e is taller than the average vehicle, at 1,512mm, which is only a couple of cm shorter than a Nissan Leaf or Renault ZOE. If you open up the glass roof (which you have to slide manually) the sense of height is further accentuated. But it’s also rather short from front to back, at 3,894mm, which is 193mm shorter than a Renault ZOE, a car that is hardly a long vehicle either.
Overall, this is an extremely cute vehicle that will give you a sense of occasion even before you get into it, and we commend Honda for creating something of a design classic. We also mostly like the way the door handles present themselves as you approach, although it seems to require two pulls to actually open them, which is less user friendly. The rear privacy glass and hidden rear door handles also provide a coupe look, without the passenger inconvenience of actually having no rear doors.
The Honda e isn’t a bad car to drive for over an hour. The height also means there’s plenty of headroom in the front and the high dashboard makes the front feel really spacious, with loads of legroom. Pull back the cover over the roof glass and the Honda feels even more capacious up front. The standard grey material has a nice enough feel, too. We didn’t find ourselves longing for the leather.
The central space has a storage area with movable dividers, and there’s a cupholder that pops out at the front, although it’s not very wide and we couldn’t get sports water bottle into it. The door bins are usefully large and include bottle holders, and the glovebox larger than some cars we’ve tested recently, notably the Renault New ZOE and Vauxhall Corsa-e. But the Honda e has no Qi wireless phone charging.
There’s plenty of headroom in the rear, too, but much less legroom, depending on how far the person in the front has their seat back. Four average-sized adults would be possible, but taller people would need more strategic placement, either in front or behind a shorter passenger. Note that you can't legally seat five people in this car, as there are only two seat belts in the rear, even if you could squeeze someone in between on the bench. You get a couple of USB ports in the rear, but no separate air conditioning controls.
Storage and Load Carrying
The lack of chassis length has another downside when it comes to boot space. The boot is only 171 litres, which is tiny and barely enough for a weekly shop, let alone holiday luggage. Not that you would be using this car for this kind of transport, as we’ll learn later in this review. You can extend the luggage capacity to 857 litres by dropping the rear seats, which don’t offer the usual 60/40 split, instead dropping forward as one block. You don’t get the usual cubby for cables, either. Instead, these hang in bags either side of the luggage area, reducing the space even further.
Just as the exterior of the Honda e turns heads, the interior has enormous “wow factor”. This isn’t the only EV in the world with a full-width screen instead of a dashboard, but it’s the first one to arrive on the UK market and doesn’t charge you a fortune for the privilege, either. The panel is actually five different screens – one behind the steering wheel, two 12.3in ones in the middle, and the two at either end in lieu of wing mirrors.
The side mirror cameras are another feature you’ll either love or hate. On the plus side, with no wing mirrors sticking out there is much less chance of the cameras that replace them being knocked out of place. There’s also no need to adjust them for differently sized drivers. They give you a wider view of what can be seen coming up on either side, too. However, while the passenger-side mirror replacement will help you avoid hitting vehicles in your blind side, the driver’s side one is obscured by your hand on the steering wheel, forcing you to move its position to see what’s displayed. The cameras are also a bit grainy in low light, although not really any worse than an actual mirror.
If you’ve bought the Advance version, there’s another screen as well – above your head where the rear-view mirror would normally be. The associated rear-view camera is great on a sunny day and if your eyesight is good, because it provides a wider view than any actual mirror. But on a rainy day we had a period where a water droplet had covered the camera lens completely. If you’re long-sighted, requiring reading glasses, you’ll also find this screen hard to focus on because it’s close to your eyes, unlike the truly distant objects in a real mirror. Being a bit blind in this respect we ended up turning the rear-view camera screen off for this reason.
Despite all the touch screens, there are still plenty of discrete controls and buttons in the Honda e. There are some nicely sized knobs and buttons to operate the climate control, and there’s a volume knob for the sound system as well, but placed rather strangely on top of the dashboard veneer. This is perhaps meant to be reminiscent of the radios of yore, as this veneer lends a curious retro feel to the interior, although we like this better than the veneer strip in the standard black Tesla Model 3 interior.
A particularly novel feature, only available in the Advance version, is a 230V home power plug in the front centre under the dashboard. This is accompanied by a full-sized HDMI video input, so you could hook up a portable DVD player or video streaming box to watch movies in the car. This isn’t quite as neat as Tesla’s full Netflix, YouTube and Twitch integration, but more flexible. There are also two USB ports, one for power only, and the usual 12V car power socket.
We’re not entirely convinced by the satnav. It’s clear and well-illustrated in operation, but full postcode entering could sometimes take an age to yield results, which adds a layer of annoyance when finding a destination. But Honda has taken advantage of the possibilities with the dual central screens, providing a Japanese-style autumnal wallpaper by default, which you can switch to a fish tank when not driving, and even touch to feed the fish. The dual screens provide a lot of “desktop real estate” for all the menu options, too. You get DAB and FM radio, Bluetooth phone connectivity, and Apple CarPlay as well as Android Auto support. There’s a six-speaker system in the basic Honda e, but the Advance has eight speakers plus a subwoofer.
The Honda e relies on buttons for selecting most of the drive modes, with a big square one for Drive, a much smaller one for neutral, and another small one up top for park. You stick our finger into an indentation to pull the lever back for reverse, and there’s a smaller button to enable single pedal control, which operates like the Nissan Leaf’s e-pedal, applying regenerative braking as soon as you take your foot off the accelerator and can even bring the car to a full stop. There’s an electronic handbrake switch, and a further switch to toggle between Normal and Sport modes.
The steering wheel has the usual array of buttons for things like audio volume and cruise control. There are stalks for lights and windscreen wipers, although both have automatic sensors. There are also enigmatic paddle shifters that adjust the regenerative braking. The Advance has adaptive cruise control, but it’s not as intuitive as many cars we’ve tested with this function. We also found the automatic Parking Pilot rather opaque. You enable it and then creep forward until it finds a parking space, but it never seemed to when we tried it. However, the parking camera system gives you a very clear picture of the surroundings, making manual parking easy – particularly as this car has a truly amazing turning circle, like a London taxi.
Performance and Driving
The Honda e in Advance form and set to Sport mode is lots of fun to drive, without being at all extreme. It’s not as fast as the Vauxhall Corsa-e or BMW i3s, or even the Nissan Leaf e+ or Kia Soul EV, but 8.3 seconds to 60mph is decent enough if you’ve come from a petrol hatchback, and the low-speed torque gives you plenty of acceleration off the lights and when navigating slow traffic. Interestingly, this is a rear-wheel-drive car, so has a different dynamic to most of the small front-wheel-drive EV hatchbacks on the market. There’s no torque steer, obviously, meaning no disconcerting effects from hard acceleration.
Handling also benefits from the rear-wheel drive, with decently weighted and responsive steering. The Honda e feels perfectly happy at motorway speeds. Despite being quite a tall car with boxy angles, it has a fairly low drag coefficient of 0.27. However, this doesn’t save it from using up its battery quite fast on a motorway. You’ll be perfectly happy on a short commute that includes sections of motorway-speed carriageway, but as we’ll explain shortly, you won’t want to do longer journeys in this car, even though it is fast and composed enough at speed.
Range and Charging
If there’s one huge caveat with the Honda e, it’s that the 35.5kWh battery, which only seems to have a usable 28.5kWh capacity, is extremely meagre by today’s standards. The WLTP range rating is 137 miles, which is already disappointing, and this drops to 131 miles with the 17in wheels on our press car. We could scarcely get 100 miles out of it during mostly urban driving with some dual carriageway and the odd motorway stint. If you do the UK average of 20 miles a day, you will be charging this car up more than weekly, making it a necessity to have home charging available. But at least the battery has thermal management, so its capacity shouldn’t deplete too rapidly over years of ownership.
On the plus side, with the 6.6kW on-board AC charger, it only takes 4.1 hours to charge fully from empty, so if you do have a home 7kW installation you can keep it ready for use quite easily. The CCS port supports 50kW DC and will take a reasonably quick 31 minutes to go from 10% to 80%, but you’re unlikely to want to do a journey of more than 70 miles without getting a bit antsy and concerned that you could be left empty before you find the next charge. The Honda e is entirely a city or short commuter car, making it feel like a retro throwback to the first Leafs and ZOEs, even if it does look considerably cooler.
With a 14p per kWh electricity supply, the Honda e costs 3.6p per mile, which is a little on the pricey side compared to some EV’s we’ve tested. The Renault New ZOE, for example, is a mere 3p per mile. You’re still saving loads over an equivalent petrol or diesel supermini, obviously. The battery has the increasingly typical eight-year, 100,000-mile battery warranty with a guarantee of at least 70% capacity. The rest of the warranty is somewhat confusing, as different components are guaranteed for different durations, ranging from 3 years for surface corrosion to 12 years for structural corrosion. You can read the full warranty details on Honda’s website.
Honda hasn’t made the servicing details very public. The company offers five-year plans but doesn’t say how much they cost. The insurance group is 25 for the Standard and 29 for the Advance Honda e, both of which are higher than the Renault New ZOE and Corsa-e SE. But of course you won’t be paying any VED and zero benefit-in-kind (BiK) as a company car for the first year if purchased through a company. So this would be as cheap a car to own once purchased as any EV.
There’s a huge list of safety features in the Honda e, virtually all of which are available in both versions of the car. There are driver and passenger SRS airbags, plus side and side curtain airbags. There’s a collision mitigation system with throttle control, which Honda’s name for automatic emergency braking. The Lane Keep Assist system’s departure warnings are a little intrusive, although not as much as the Vauxhall Corsa-e’s. The steering wheel nudge isn’t that distracting, but sometimes the onscreen message comes on even when you’re actually changing lanes and stays on for far too long afterwards. The traffic sign detection system will spot speed limits, and there’s even adaptive cruise control with low speed capability that meshes well with the low speed braking. The only extra in the Advance is blind spot information including cross-traffic monitoring, which is supposedly useful to stop you reversing out of a parking spot when another vehicle is going past behind you.
|Price:||Standard – £26,660; Advance – £29,160|
|Range (WLTP):||137 miles (131 miles with 17in wheels)|
|Charge time (13A plug, 2.3kW):||18.8 hours|
|Charge time (7.4kW):||4.1 hours|
|Charge time (50kW, 80%):||31 minutes|
|On Board Charger:||6.6kW|
|Cost per mile*:||3.6p|
|Power:||136PS (Standard); 154PS (Advance)|
*based on electricity costs of 14p per kWh